A Bridal Salon’s Lessons in Love and Heartbreak

It’s too late for some of us, but there’s always the next generation to think of when it comes to either the rapture, or gasp—heartbreak of the wedding dress purchase. If you’re soon to be engaged, you won’t thank me for this now. Best case scenario you’ll avoid anything like the atrocities I’m about to describe, and you’ll relegate my warnings to the over paranoid, obsessive compulsive. That’s just fine if I can help only one bride.

There are many routes up the top of Mount Fuji, so the saying goes, but if you’ll take my advice, there is a right and a wrong way to go about falling in love…with your dress. If you think a mail order bride’s chances of finding love are slim, the chances of finding the dress of your dreams from an unknown ecommerce site you’ve never dealt with before are even skinnier.

I’ve seen a lot of these anonymous dresses. They circle around through the back door of alterations departments, brides sniffling through hopelessly botched mascara. You think you’ve seen heartbreak before? You don’t know. I’ve seen a bride cycle through the seven stages of grief right before my eyes. All seven stages. And then they say just comical things like: Can you make it longer? Can we what? Make fabric out of thin air? How are we supposed to make it longer? Shorter. Now, shorter is no problem, but longer? No. We’re very good seamstresses but we are not magicians.

One bride we worked with ordered her dress from an ecommerce site and the thing that arrived was nothing like the picture she relied upon. (So, you know, disreputable retailers will use photographs from anywhere.) Cheap fabric. Low-quality lace. Abysmal construction. She couldn’t wear it. The dress was a complete waste, and the worst part was, she’d given $1800 for the monstrosity.

In the bridal business we see what is happening to retail everywhere. The bookstores are gone and the toy stores are all gone and, slowly, some brides begin shopping for their dresses in-store only to go out and try to find something similar online, but ladies, I beg you to consider this strategy. Fitting a dress is not like buying a book or a toy. The dress you wore in the bridal showroom will probably not be the dress you find online. Although there are a few good online bridal retailers out there, the online wedding dress purchase if fraught with risks.

We understand. Economic models change, and we must adapt. Convenience is a huge driver in our busy lives. We all use Amazon for some things, but don’t sell yourself short. Be a little romantic and let yourself fall in love not just with the groom, but with your dress. The experience of shopping in a good bridal salon is not only a fun it’s a thrilling experience you’ll always remember.

That said, don’t do a marathon. Choose two to three bridal salons with a solid reputation. Try as many as 10 to 20 dresses in the styles you wish for, but don’t do what one of our brides did. She came in and found a dress and fell in love with it. Then she walked away because she thought: this was simple and easy and so much fun; I could do this over and over again. Then she went shopping in a larger city she didn’t know. She found a bunch of stores she’d never heard of, and she did the marathon. She tried on everything, and never found a dress she liked so well. Our dress was a couple of hundred dollars more than what she’d wanted to spend, but she no doubt spent that much more in stress, fuel, and possibly hotel by the time she went out of town. And then when she came back into our dress salon, we’d already sold the dress she wanted. We had to do a rush order from our manufacturer right before the wedding. And then the shipment came a few days later than she’d expected, her mother came in the shop in tears, explaining why it had to arrive. By luck, it was okay. The dress came in time and her grandmother was able to do the alterations like they had planned, but it almost didn’t come off. And honestly, I don’t think she’ll have fond memories of her dress love-story. It was too stressful.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Your dress try-on can be really low stress. Let us take care of you—that’s what a stylists do. They listen. They give expert advice and let you choose. You’ll feel like a princess. It happens all the time. Brides come in rough and bedraggled, and then they step into just the right dress and it’s magical—it’s like they burst out of a chrysalis. Butterfly brides all over the shop. Ladies, there are too few truly perfect places in this world. A good bridal salon is one of them. A slice of sugar plum fairy meets Tiffany’s all wrapped up in enough tulle, mesh and sparkles to fill any girl’s quotient for a lifetime. No bride should the miss dress try-on in a well-regarded salon. It’s one of the best parts of doing a wedding.